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SOIL: The Soul of your Garden

If your garden is turning in a lackluster performance, chances are the problem starts in your soil.

Properly caring for your soil not only improves your garden – informed soil management may literally save the world. No pressure, of course.

First, understand that soil is not indestructible. It is commonly damaged through human activities such as compaction from heavy equipment and foot traffic, leaving soil bare or fallow, overworking soil when overly wet or dry, and by common outdated tilling practices.

Soil health, and in fact our planet’s health, is dependent on the organisms that live in the soil. They are part of the earth’s all-important nitrogen and carbon cycle, they have a symbiotic relationship with our plants, and they contribute to soil health by adding organic matter to our soil and converting nutrients to forms that plants can use.

Organic matter is absolutely essential to making your garden grow, especially in light of the alkalinity of Western soils, and the arid climate of San Diego.

In an undisturbed natural setting, organic material finds its way to the earth every day, in myriad ways: mineral rock weathering, bird droppings, fallen leaves, the bodies of animals, and their leavings. This mineralization breaks down easily thanks to the hungry bacteria in healthy soil. This also fuels the carbon and nitrogen cycles which are essential to supporting plant-life.

In an urban or suburban garden, this exchange must be helped along through the use of compost, worm castings, mulch and other organic additives.

Humic soils, trees, and shrubs provide the largest store of terrestrial carbon. They store carbon in a process called carbon sequestration. This helps offset CO2 (carbon dioxide) produced by greenhouse gases. The steady reduction of grasslands like the Great Plains, along with rampant deforestation, are contributing to historic losses of soil carbon worldwide.

Many other factors enter into the equation, as well. For example, unprotected soils erode, sending tons of sediment and chemicals into fragile waterways, negatively affecting ecosystems in ways too numerous to count.

Imagine… your entire neighborhood and city understands this challenge and takes action on their own small property. The challenge is vast, but we can make a difference. Start with your garden, your soil, and your two hands. A sustainable planet begins with you.

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